An Open Letter
Dear Everyone Who Has Ever Had Me Over to Eat,
I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not returning the gesture. I’m even more sorry if I did and you were subjected to my anxiety ridden, unappetizing meal. There are many catastrophic memories ingrained in my culinary psyche. Most notably, there’s the time I attempted potato latkes on Hanukkah and my best friend’s Irish husband had to take over. I acquiesced, allowing a Catholic to make this quintessentially Jewish food. They were darn good latkes too, no thanks to me.
I came to terms with my shortcomings. Hosting grew one sided as my husband stepped in. He actually enjoys cooking and is good at it. He’s the type that adds a dash of this and a sprinkle of that, resulting in a delicious meal. Relinquished of my duties, I relaxed as a guest at our own dinner parties. If obligated I’d invite people for breakfast at best. Usually social occasions were scheduled in between mealtimes. Slowly our dinner party invites abated. On the rare occasion we were invited over for a meal, I’d immediately feel guilty and indebted, knowing I wouldn’t – I couldn’t return the favor.
Claire’s Roast Chicken Dinner gives me hope! It’s the perfect dinner party meal. I’ll practice first on my critical kids and then maybe, eventually host our nearest and dearest friends.
A reformed incapable cook.
I know I’m not alone in my cooking challenges, so please join us on this exciting journey. We look forward to hearing your thoughts along the way! There’s power in accountability – please take photos of your meals and share them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, be sure to hashtag #thedinnerdance and #tiptuesday. We’d love to hear what works, what you’d love to learn and more!
Roast Chicken Rules
By Claire Handleman
A roast chicken is a beautiful thing. Crispy skin, moist meat and a hint of lemon equals a stunner of a chicken. Point blank, roast chicken rules.
But there are some rules to follow to get that perfect chicken.
If you like super crispy skin, there is one step you’re probably not doing but you should be doing. Have you ever had Peking duck? The trick to Peking duck is to dehydrate the skin and get most of the moisture out of it. Peking ducks are usually hung for several days to really allow the skin to dry.
Being that we are cooking in a home, we can shorten and modify that process. This one step will help you attain near perfect crispy chicken skin.
If you’re planning to have roast chicken for dinner you need to start this process in the morning.
Time 1hr 20 minutes
5 lb chicken
1 lemon, cut in half
herbs of your choosing (fresh thyme, parsley, cilantro, etc.)
salt and pepper
1 onion, cut in half and sliced in 1” pieces
2 parsnips, cut in ½ inch rounds
1 ½ cups butternut squash, cubed (pre-cut is a time saver)
10 button mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed, and cut in half
8 small waxy potatoes, cut in half (red russet, yellow potatoes or fingerlings)
10 garlic cloves, peeled (I buy pre-peeled for convenience)
sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
1 large bunch parsley, washed, leaves cut from stems in one chop (discard stems or save for stock)
2 tablespoons capers
½ tsp chili flakes
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup + 3 tbsp olive oil
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
I know many recipes call for tying the chicken’s legs together, or tucking the wings behind the chicken, but I don’t find this necessary for this recipe. The wings crisp up very nicely when they’re untucked and I love nibbling on the roasty bits. So no fussing with twine or trussing. Use the bird as is (but remove the neck bone and liver that’s tucked inside the bird in a little package).
In the morning (after your cup of coffee) unwrap your chicken, blot the skin with paper towels and then generously season the entire chicken, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on a roasting rack or cooling rack (usually used for cookies) inside of a sheet tray lined with foil, and place in the fridge uncovered. The foil will make clean-up after the chicken is roasted much, much easier. The chicken’s skin will dry out throughout the day and these 5 minutes of prep will ensure a boast-worthy roast in the evening.
In the evening, take the chicken out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you’re ready to cook it. It needs to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
When chicken roasts at this temperature, it can make the oven a little smoky because the fat that drips off the chicken splatters inside the oven. Don’t fret. Just turn your vent on your stove on, and you may need to open a window!
Stuff the chicken with a small bunch of whatever herbs you have on hand. I particularly love cilantro, but any herb will lend a gorgeous scent to the bird. Tuck the herbs in and then insert the halved lemon. Keeping the chicken on the sheet tray and rack, place the chicken on the center rack in the oven and cook the chicken for an hour. Check on the chicken after about 40 minutes. If it’s getting too dark, just place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the chicken. It’s rare that my chicken gets too dark, but it will depend on your oven.
Meanwhile, once the chicken is in, season the veggies with about ¼ cup of olive oil. It’s really just about being generous with the olive oil so the veggies don’t dry up in the oven. Toss 6-8 sprigs of thyme with all the veggies (you can add in cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots, celery…any veg that would be yummy roasted) and season with salt and pepper. Don’t be shy with the salt. Mix with your hands to ensure seasoning and oil is evenly distributed.
Spread the veggies evenly on a sheet tray. After the chicken has cooked for about 25 minutes, place the veggies on the rack below the chicken. Cook for about 30 minutes. Once a knife easily pierces one of the denser vegetables (like butternut squash or a potato), the veggies are done. Remove from the oven.
At an hour, turn off the oven and let the chicken sit in the oven for 5 minutes. You can check the internal temperature at this point with a meat thermometer if you like. Insert the thermometer into a meaty part of the leg or thigh, avoiding touching the bone with the thermometer. Once the temperature is 160 degrees F, the chicken is done. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes on the counter, just to let the juices settle.
While the chicken is resting, make the chimichurri. It take 2 minutes.
Add all the dry ingredients to a food processor (or blender) and pulse just to break up the parsley a bit. With the blade running, pour in the olive oil, and then pour in the vinegar. This sauce comes together very quickly. Try not to over pulse as we’re not looking for creamy with this sauce. A bit of texture is nice.
Taste the sauce and add more olive oil if it’s too vinegary. Or add a touch more salt if it tastes flat. It should be very herby, garlicky, and a bit salty, with a touch of heat. It’s great on chicken, or steak…or all over your veggies.
Now you can dig in!
Claire Handleman has been a chef in New York for 10 years, working at some of the city’s best restaurants. She previously worked on ABC’s Emmy-award winning show The Chew as an assistant producer and participated in Food Network’s Chopped competition…and won.
Claire has been traveling the world for the past dozen years but focuses a majority of her time in South-East Asia. She has come to regard Thailand as a second home and spends many months each year learning Thai cuisine.
She is currently working on a book with the hopes of sharing the incredible cuisine her Thai friends have shared with her.
While she travels and works, she shares stories, recipes and travel tips on her blog Passport to Eat.